To whom it may concern...
To the creators of television, movies, books, and whatever else captures the attention of the masses these days.
I’m writing to remind you that you have the enormous and awesome power to shape how we think about ourselves and others. You create characters and worlds that can change the minds and challenge the hearts of those who engage with your creations. Your endless power is bounded only by the limits of your imaginations. And, because of the remarkable power that you enjoy, I am very disappointed that I have to explain the following to you.
If- from the vast array of existing characters and the vast recesses of your own minds- you choose to write Lilith into your creations and then proceed to portray her as a power-mad, man-hating demon, you have failed.
That’s right. You have failed. You have chosen to approach with casual indifference a figure that feminists have spent decades trying to rescue from the consequences of thousands of years worth of patriarchal nonsense. With your choices, you have used your power to reinforce specific ideas of womanhood- ideas that have limited the lives of millions of women.
Judging by the sheer number of examples that I have encountered, I have to assume that appropriating and then completely misusing the figure of Lilith must be some kind of rite of passage for those who exist within certain subsets of the entertainment and literary worlds.
In order to help all those who might be considering adding Lilith to their upcoming creations, I have made the following, easy-to-use test. Please enjoy
The practice of quite literally demonizing any powerful female figures who refuse to unquestioningly accept the power structures that oppress them is something that religious feminists have to wrestle with every day.
Appropriating figures like Lilith and then shoving them into stories that claim to positively represent a diverse and inclusive cast of characters (True Blood and Shadowhunters- I’m looking at you) is lazy writing and a betrayal of the your audience.
Those of us who look to Lilith for inspiration deserve so much more.
We deserve to see depictions of Lilith that showcase her strong spirit and her unwillingness to accept injustice. We deserve to see depictions of Lilith that highlight her knowledge of the divine and her connection to the powers of the world. We deserve to see Lilith in a role that reminds us of her claim on the experience of creation and helps us to explore her unique point of view.
And so, creators of media, I challenge you to be original and innovative. I challenge you to resist the temptation to walk in lockstep with the toxic biases that have poisoned our society. I challenge you to dream bigger and with more gusto. I challenge you to be like the Lilith that Jewish feminists know and love.
Rabbi Rachel Bearman